Norm's question and Nancy's reply
> I am interested in hearing, particularly from organic producers,
> as to what techniques a student could benefit from....
> Any practical ways of getting farmers on-line with us?
A few quick thoughts on Nancy's question. CIAS here at UW-Madison
has had a pilot project to get sustainable animal farmers (management
intensive rotational graziers and seasonal dairy operators) on the
Internet, and while I haven't yet had a chance to write anything up,
we have some tips and observations for people trying to diversify the
Net community, arising out of what we've learned from that pilot
project. Coupla quicks:
An easy way is to get some accounts thru your institution for key
farmers to use and then support them in using e-mail and other tools
in return for using and contributing to the listserv.
Another easy thing to do is start asking around through your various
human networks and through farmer-to-farmer networks about who the
computer wizards are, then let them know about the listserv. But be
ready to tell them why they should spend time using it. In other
words, those of us in academic institutions, nonprofits, and
Extension have our own ideas about why this information is
important, yet we may have a very different information economy than
farmers do. So subscribing to a listserv has to have very concrete
benefits for the farmers.
What we've watched as co-founders of the listserv GRAZE-L is how
farmers will have plenty to say when the conversation is clearly
about issues of interest to them. Sometimes if we want farmer input,
the best thing we can do is serve them in technical facilitation of
things they want to talk about...and perhaps piggyback onto that
with our own questions and needs, but without dominating their
I agree with Nancy's observation about newsletters. After twenty
years in educational communications I've concluded that if the goal
is to change the world (as is the goal of sustag), we can often get
much more punch by facilitating farmer-to-farmer communication (that
is, rather than by producing one-way media like newsletters) and
then standing ready to serve them as they need us to. Newsletters
have their place...but are just one tool to record and impart
information. Of course, in an academic context--where print is the
currency by which power is negotiated--it can be a challenge to focus
scarce resources on these other kinds of communication, like
face-to-face, informal, and embodied communications.
This is all quite oversimplified in the interest of length. We have
ideas on how to facilitate and enourage such involvement as Nancy
discusses...but maybe she'd like to e-mail me directly.
Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems
Agricultural Technology and Family Farm Institute
UW-Madison--Voice: (608) 262-8018 FAX: (608) 265-3020
The Hall of Fame is for baseball people. Heaven
is for good people. --Jim Dwyer (Twins DH, late 80s)
(1195) Tue 26 May 92 12:14
Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) has been grown for centuries in high
altitude areas of Chile, Peru, and Bolivia. Quinua, a more native spelling of
the common name, has also been used for the grain amaranth species, Amaranthus
caudatus. Quinoa and amaranth, although of different botanical families, have
similar characteristics, uses, and ancient history. Amaranth was more widely
adapted and important than quinoa in ancient South America, but quinoa
established its niche at high altitudes.
Quinoa is used for flour, soup, breakfast cereal, and alcohol. Seed of some
varieties have bitter saponin compounds which must be removed in soaking water
before consumption; other varieties are saponin-free. The leaves are eaten as a
leafy vegetable like spinach.
Quinoa seed ranges from 12 to 18 percent protein, but the protein quality is
better than that of grain crops like wheat. Like amaranth, it is high in lysine
amino acid. Seed imported from South America and products containing it are
sold as health foods at high prices in the United States.
Related species are common lambsquarters weed (Chenopodium album L.), canahua
(Chenopodium pallidicaute Aellen), and wormseed chenopodium ambrosioides L.
anthelminticum. Canahua or canihua is shorter, more branched, and smaller
seeded than quinoa. The seed is black and shatters when the plants are shaken.
It is grown at higher altitudes, 12,000 to 14,000 feet, than quinoa in the
semi-arid plateau of the Andes Mountains.Canahua is tolerant of frost and cool
weather. It can germinate at 40 F, flower at 50 F, and mature seed at 60 F.
Wormseed is grown for its oil, but acreage and markets in the United States are
small. Wormseed oil is obtained by distillingthe entire plant although most of
the oil is in the seeds. About 40 pounds of oil are obtained per ton of plant.
The oil contains ascaridole that is used in worm medicines.
Quinoa is mostly self-pollinated but cross-pollination occurs so isolation of
about 650 feet is desirable for pure seed production.
Quinoa was planted in mid-May at Rosemount. It emerged about June 1 and was
attacked by fleabeetles and aphids which necessitated spraying. It grew about 2
feet tall but did not flower or produce seed. High summer temperatures at
Rosemount probably caused it to become dormant. Cool temperatures at the high
altitudes where it is grown allow various varieties to mature within a range of
80 to 150 days.
The Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station is releasing an experimental
yellow-seeded variety for production on about 50 acres in 1986. Agronomist D.
L. Johnson estimates that the crop has a potential acreage of 6,000 in Colorado
at elevations above7,000 feet. The new variety grows 3 to 4 feet tall, matures
in 100 days, and resists shattering. It will be grown in rows 20 to 30 inches
apart, irrigated, and harvested with a combine. Yields of 1,200 pounds per acre
are expected. Varieties adapted to lower elevations and of white seed color are
expected in the future.
TEF OR TEFF
Tef [Eragrostis tef (Zucc.) Trotter] has been a major grain crop
in Ethiopia since antiquity. The crop is little grown outside of
Ethiopia where it is called t'ef (tee-ef). The scientific name
used to be Eragrostis abyssinica (jacq.) Link., in recognition of
Ethiopia's old name, Abyssinia. White- and brown-seeded varieties
are grown. The grain is ground into flour and used for unleavened
bread since there is little gluten in the grain.
Tef is a warm-season grass and a poor weed competitor until
fully grown, so a high seeding rate is suggested for weed control
(Table 1). Four introductions were tested at Rosemount, and they
required 67 to 80 days from planting to heading when planted June
5 (Figure 9). Earlier plantings did not emerge. Only the early
variety produced seed -- 1,000 pounds per acre from June 5
planting and 220 pounds per acre from June 24 planting. The
plants remained green and leafy, and the seed shattered easily. A
killing frost or a preharvest desiccant would be needed for
combine-harvest of the standing crop. Otherwise the crop would
need to be dried in windrows before combining.
Tef is fine stemmed and the plants remain green and leafy to the
base, indicating that it might have value for forage. Related
species are used as perennial, warm-season pasture grasses from
Texas-Oklahoma to California. Weeping lovegrass [Eragrostis
curvula (Schrad.) Nees.] and sand lovegrass [Eragrostis trichodes
(Nutt.) Wood.] are examples of the Eragrostis species used in the
United States for forage. Stinkgrass (EragrostiS citianensis
All.) is a common annual weed in Minnesota.
Tef is self pollinated, so isolation is not needed for pure seed
Tef and ragi were compared in forage production at Rosemount and
Elk River (Table 12). Ragi yielded more forage than tef and was
higher in protein or digestibility in five of six comparisons.
The Minnesota ragi selection is higher and more dependable in
seed yield than any of the tef introductions. Consequently, ragi
has greater potential than tef as an annual, warm-season, grass
forage crop in Minnesota.
Table 12. Comparative performance of tef and ragi (finger millet)
for hay (single cut) or pasture (two or three cuts)
Year and trial Location Tef Ragi Tef Ragi
yield/acre (pounds)' protein (percent)l
1968 hay Rosemount 6,353 6,666 7.3 12.4
1969 pasture total Rosemount --2 4,932 --- ----
first cut --2 2,142 --- 25.0
second cut --2 1,710 --- 20.2
third cut --2 1,080 --- 20.8
1970 hay Rosemount 5,016 11,144 16.1 11.2
1970 pasture total Rosemount 1,440 2,256 ---- ----
first cut 932 690 24.8 26.2
second cut 508 1,033 ---- ----
third cut --- 533 ---- ----
1971 hay dryland Elk River 3,249 4,211 8.2 10.5
1971 hay irrigated Elk River 6,190 8,614 7.8 8.8
digestible dry matter (percent)
1971 hay irrigated Elk River --- --- 57.0 59.1
1 Oven-dry. 2 Failed to establish satisfactory stands.
RAGI OR FINGER MILLET
Ragi or finger millet [Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertn.], also
called African millet, is a major grain crop in parts of the
tropics, subtropics, and semi-arid tropics to about 30 degrees
north or south latitude. Ragi is consumed in bread, porridge,
puddings, and liquor in Africa and Asia. The grain is deficient
in lysine but above average in the sulfur-containing amino acids
and tryptophan, so it complements the deficiencies of pulse
crops. Consumption of both ragi and pulses provides a good
balance of amino acids in the diet.
Although plantings in May were satisfactory in Minnesota,
experience from 1967 to 1981 indicated that June plantings were
best. Most introductions did not produce seed in Minnesota. In
one trial of 28 introductions from India and eight African
countries, only one introduction produced seed on some plants
(Figure 7). Selection continued for several years, and data
reported here are primarily from this selection. The grain yield
of ragi was not high enough in Minnesota to compete with adapted
grain crops. Consequently, research was focused on its forage
potential. The early maturing Minnesota selection was used even
though later maturing lines had greater forage yield.
Empire is a recommended variety of foxtail millet [Setaria
itatica (L.) Beauv.]. Comparisons of ragi and Empire planted in
June in rows 6 inches apart indicate that Empire is about the
same or slightly higher in forage yield and much higher in seed
yield (Table 9). However ragi averaged higher than Empire in
forage protein and digestibility.
Ragi leaves retain green color and density to the base of the
plant long after heading (Figure 8). The top leaf blade on all
plants tends to be bent or broken by August. The large flat stems
elongate slowly so tall, leafy plants have short stems for a long
time. However, early cutting to avoid stems in the forage
required two harvests (Table 10). Although digestibility and
protein decreased as the stem elongated, good digestibility
compared with alfalfa was retained through the heading to seed
stage (Table 10). The increase in digestibility at the heading to
seed stage may be attributed to the seed. Pasturing of the high
quality forage before stem elongation is untested but should be
practical. Ragi has a very strong, dense root system in contrast
to the weak root system of foxtail millet.
Table 9. Comparison of finger and foxtail millets grown in rows 6
inches apart at Rosemount and Elk River, 1967-76
Years Finger Foxtail
Location of trial millet millet
forage/acre (pounds) (1)
Rosemount 9 7,770 8,430
Elk River 3 3,550 5,880
Elk River irrigated 1 8,020 7,760
forage protein (percent) (1)
Rosemount 5 9.4 8.6
Elk River 3 7.7 6.9
Elk River irrigated 1 7.1 7.42
forage digestibility (percent) (2)
Rosemount 4 64 58
Elk River irrigated 1 59 62
grain/acre (pounds) (3)
Rosemount 2 950 1890
(1) Oven-dry. (2) Good alfalfa standard was 64 percent.
(3) separate plots not harvested for forage.
Table 10. Growth stage at harvest and performance of finger
millet at Rosemount, 1972-75
Harvest stage stem length (inches): 1 to 9
Forage yield/acre (pounds) (1): 6149 (3)
Digestibility (percent) (2): 65.9
Protein (percent) (1): 16.3
Harvest stage stem length (inches): 12 to 16
Forage yield/acre (pounds) (1): 6757 (4)
Digestibility (percent) (2): 61.2
Protein (percent) (1): 12.4
Harvest stage stem length (inches): 19 to 29
Forage yield/acre (pounds) (1): 7836
Digestibility (percent) (2): 61.2
Protein (percent) (1): 14.9
Harvest stage stem length (inches): headed to seed
Forage yield/acre (pounds) (1): 8382
Digestibility (percent) (2): 63.7
Protein (percent) (1): 9.8
Harvest stage stem length (inches): LSD 5%
Forage yield/acre (pounds) (1): 719
Digestibility (percent) (2): ---
Protein (percent) (1): ---
(2) Good alfalfa standard was 64.3.
(3) Harvested twice.
(4) Harvested twice in 1975; once in other years.
Minnesota ragi, Empire foxtail millet, Minhybrid 7301 corn
(Becker), Minhybrid 7301 and M 309 corn (Rosemount), and NK
Sordan 77 (sorghum X sudangrass) hybrid were compared in rows 30
inches apart. The corn and sorghum were planted May 13-26 and
the millets June 2-29 (Table 11). All were harvested once at
mature silage stage except for two cuttings of the ragi that was
cut before the stem elongated. Grain yields at maturity were
determined on adjacent plots not harvested for silage.
Table 11. Comparison of finger millet (ragi) with foxtail millet,
corn, and sorghum X sudangrass hybrid grown in rows 30 inches
apart at Rosemount from 1978-81 and at Becker from 1979-81
Ragi cut before stem elongation had extremely high protein, but
yields were almost doubled by waiting until silage stage. Ragi
was slightly higher in forage yield and decidedly better in
quality than foxtail millet. Foxtail millet is not as well
adapted to 30-inch rows as ragi. Corn and sorghum X sudangrass
are well adapted to 30-inch rows, and they were much higher in
yield but lower in protein than the millets. Corn produced the
highest grain yields. Empire outyielded ragi but grain yields of
both were sufficiently high to allow seed production for sale to
farmers at a reasonable price.
Ragi is self-pollinated. Less than 1 percent natural crossing
was reported by researchers in Africa. Test weights per bushel of
mature seed harvested at Rosemount ranged from 49 to 54 pounds.
A related species is goosegrass [Eleusine indica (L.) Gaertn.]
which is an annual grass weed in the tropics. Introductions from
India and Kenya made a spreading growth like crabgrass rather
than upright like ragi. They grew about 2 feet and headed but did
not mature seed at Rosemount.
Niger [Guizotia abyssinica (L.) Cass.), also called Nigerian
thistle, is imported from India (formerly from Ethiopia) and
used for birdfeed in the United States. It has been a major
oilseed crop in Ethiopia since antiquity and is also used as an
oilseed crop in India. It is in the same plant family as
sunflower, an important oilseed crop in Minnesota, but the seed
and plants resemble thistles without spiny leaves (Figure 10).
Oil concentration in niger seed is about like that of sunflower,
40 to 45 percent, and the oil is used primarily for food. It can
be used in soap, paint, oil lamps, and other nonfood uses. Niger
oil characteristics of potential value for cosmetics are its lack
of odor and its capacity for absorbing fragrances of flowers. The
meal remaining after oil extraction is about 37 percent protein.
Introductions from Ethiopia and India have been grown in research
plots at Rosemount. Production practices were similar to those
used for sunflower. Planting dates ranged from late April to June
1 and it required 2.5 weeks to emerge. Trifluralin (Treflan 4E)
at 1 quart/acre preplant incorporated and cultivation controlled
weeds. Row spacing was 30 inches, and plants grew 3 to 4 feet
high by September (Figure 11). In only I of 3 years did the
plants bloom before frost, and the yellow flowers, 1.25 inches
in diameter, failed to produce mature seed. Yields of about 375
pounds per acre are reported in Ethiopia.
Since niger is an annual and did not produce seed, it should not
become a weed in Minnesota despite its wide distribution in
birdfeed. However, weed regulatory personnel in some states have
been alerted to this hypothetical problem.
Niger seed could be produced in states with longer growing
seasons. It has produced seed at Lincoln, Neb. Seed production in
the United States to replace imports would reduce the foreign
trade deficit by millions of dollars. However, potential yields
and economics of production in the United States are unknown.
Variability in maturity was evident at Rosemount indicating that
varieties differing in maturity might be developed for south and
central United States. Niger flowers are cross-pollinated by
insects so isolation is needed for pure seed production.
The five crops discussed in this report are examples of many
potential field crops evaluated by the University of Minnesota
Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics. The research started
in 1948, and publications on some of the crops are available in
agricultural libraries and county extension offices. New and
uncommon field crops are of current interest as potential future
alternatives to continued surplus production of the major field
Alternative crops researched were sunflower, safflower, field-
bean, fieldpea, chickpea, grasspea, cowpea, tangierpea, sainfoin,
lupine, peanut, fababean, adzuki, lentil, crownvetch, vetch,
teparybean, mungbean, fenugreek, hyacinth bean, berseem, guar,
sunn hemp, hemp, kenaf, rye, annual canarygrass, sorghum, broom-
corn, millet, buckwheat, castorbean, naked-seeded pumpkin,
crambe, rape, canola, mustard, tyfon, kale, comfrey, flax, ses-
ame, fodder beet, anise, coriander, and about 200 other uncommon
crops. Most alternative crops have genetic or production defi-
ciencies or very limited usage. Consequently research is needed
to develop better varieties, better production practices, or
Amaranth, Quinoa, Ragi, Tef, And Niger
Alternative Agricultural Opportunities
Amaranth, Quinoa, Ragi, Tef, and Niger: Tiny Seeds
of Ancient History and Modern Interest
Amaranth, quinoa, ragi, tef, and niger, old crops in developing countries, are
potential new crops in Minnesota. These crops have been grown intermittently
for about 20 years in research plots on silt loam soil at Rosemount and on
sandy soil at Elk River or Becker. The crops differ in use, culture, and
appearance, but small seed is their common characteristic. A major advantage of
small seed is the very few pounds needed to plant an acre (Table 1) and the
relatively small space needed to store planting seed over the winter.
Table 1. Approximate planting rates for small-seeded potential crops
compared with wheat
Seeds/ Planting Planting rate/
pound rate/acre square foot
Crop (number) (pounds) (seeds)
Amaranth 560,000 0.4 5
Quinoa 140,000 1.6 5
Ragi 230,000 5.0 25
Tef 1,815,000 2.0 85
Niger 150,000 4.0 15
Wheat 14,000 80.0 25
Commercial production of amaranth in the United States started in 1983 with
about 400 acres followed by nearly 1500 acres in 1984 when production exceeded
demand. This led to reduced acreage in 1985-86, but more farmers participated.
Despite its small acreage, amaranth is a well-known and important crop in the
United States. The large research program at the Rodale Research Center,
Kutztown, PA 19530 since 1977 and the promotional efforts of the Rodale Press,
Inc., Emmaus, PA 18049 aroused the interest of millions of Americans, and
thousands have planted a few amaranth seeds.
Quinoa will be planted for seed increase in Colorado in 1986 and
commercial production is planned. Ragi, tef, and niger are not
grown commercially in the United States.
Amaranth was a major grain crop during the Inca and Aztec
dynasties of South America and Mexico and is now an important
grain crop in parts of India, Pakistan, Nepal, and China.
Amaranth is an important vegetable crop in parts of Africa,
Southeast Asia, India, China, and the Caribbean. Grain amaranth
species are Amaranthus cruentus (L.) Thell., Amaranthus
hypochondriacus L., and Amaranthus caudatus L. The leaves of
vegetable amaranth are used for boiled greens and include
Amaranthus cruentus, dubius, tricolor, lividus, hybridus,
palmeri, gangeticus, and other species.
1 The author is a professor, Department of Agronomy and Plant
Genetics, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108.
Amaranth species in Minnesota are the common weeds -- redroot pigweed
(Amaranthus retroflexus L.) and prostrate pigweed (Amaranthus blitoides s.
wats.). These dark-seeded weeds are hardier than the crops, and redroot
pigweed with its strong tap root and upright growth is a serious weed in
amaranth (Figure 1). Amaranth is drought-tolerant and grows best in warm, dry
weather. Species differ in daylength requirements from short to long indicating
a potential world wide adaptation from the equator through the temperate zones.
Amaranth, like corn, uses the C4 pathway of photosynthesis. These crops convert
more atmospheric carbon to sugar per unit of water lost than most other crops
that use the conventional C3 pathway. Consequently, amaranth has great
potential but undeveloped yielding ability.
Varietal trials from 1977 to 1982 at Rosemount included about 20 varieties
belonging to several species, and seed yields ranged from 300 to 3800 pounds
per acre from hand-harvested plots. Heights ranged from a few inches for some
vegetable varieties to over 8 feet for some A. hypochondriacus varieties. A.
cruentus varieties headed about 9 days earlier than A. hypochondriacus
varieties. Most of the United States crop consists of white-seeded varieties of
A. cruentus and include:
R 1041 was selected by the Rodale Research Center in plantings made from seed
collected in Mexico. R K112 is a white-seeded selection from a cross made at
the Rodale Research Center between a black-seeded African and a white-seeded
Mexican line. R 158 is a uniform selection of R K112 made by Johnny's Selected
Seeds, Albion, ME 04910.
A. hypochondriacus varieties are also available but not commonly grown as a
farm crop. Selections from crosses between A. hypochondriacus and A. cruentus
are now available.
Amaranth is monoecious with one male flower in each group (glomerule) of female
flowers. There has been no evidence of intercrossing between varieties in
progeny of seed saved from plantings at Rosemount. The breeders at the Rodale
Research Center are handling amaranth as a self-pollinated crop. In some other
environments, outcrossing has been reported.
Seedbed Preparation and Planting
The home gardener can either plant seed by hand and thin or transplant started
plants, but stand establishment is a major problem in farm fields. Germination
and emergence should be fast and uniform so that the crop establishes before
weeds. Amaranth requires a warm soil, preferably over65 F, for germination.
Soil temperature near the surface fluctuates with air temperature, but
consistently warm temperatures are not achieved until June. A major advantage
of delaying planting until June is that many weeds emerge earlier and will be
destroyed by seedbed preparation tillage.
The small seed and weak seedlings make shallow planting (<O.5 inch) necessary
(Table 2). A seedbed suitable for larger-seeded grain crops may have a layer of
dry clods over 0.5 inches thick on the surface, but a seedbed for amaranth
should be fine and firm on the surface. Seedbeds prepared with the common disk/
spike-tooth harrow combination can be cultipacked before planting, or planters
with press wheels in front of the furrow openers will firm the seedbed. Rolling
basket, coil tine, flexible spike, and Meeker harrows can make fine, compact
seedbeds without cultipacking.
Table 2. Planting depth and emergence of amaranth
Depth Emergence (percent)
(inches) R102 R125 Average
0.25 48 45 46
0.50 37 65 51
0.75 10 28 19
1.00 23 4 13
Seeds can be sown with vegetable planters using celery or similar size plates,
sugarbeet planters with modified seed plates, cultipacker seeders, or grain
drills. If the small forage-seed box on a grain drill is used, the ends of the
forage seed tubes should be placed in the furrow openers so that the seed is
drilled shallow rather than scattered on the dry surface. Amaranth seed is too
small for the grain box of a grain drill unless it is diluted with ground corn.
Corn seeds ground in a hammermill and then separated into flour and various
sizes of grits in a fanning mill make a good diluent. If a 0.5 pound per acre
planting rate is desired, then mix 0.5 pounds of amaranth seed with 4.5 pounds
of corn flour and/or grits and calibrate the planter for 5 pounds per acre.
Corn flour alone may be satisfactory, but some grits are usually needed to
prevent bridging unless there is continuous agitation. The best proportion of
amaranth to diluent depends on the planter. Diluted amaranth mixtures are often
helpful in home garden vegetable planters.
Modern agriculture is moving toward zero tillage to conserve soil, energy, and
labor. Amaranth seedlings are weak and often break in the hypocotyl when
exposed to strong winds in open fields, and zero tillage would resolve that
problem. Consequently, zero tillage was compared with conventional seedbed
preparation (moldboard plow in October, disk in June followed by a C tine-
rolling basket harrow). The two zero tillage treatments were double cropped
with oat or alfalfa planted in March-April and harvested for forage in June.
Amaranth was planted in the oat and alfalfa stubbles and fallow (conventional
tillage) strip, and the stubbles were sprayed with glyphosate (Roundup) to kill
the remaining crop and weeds (Table 3, Figure 2).
The oat and alfalfa forage yields varied greatly among years with the highest
yields in 1981 when weather permitted planting on March 25 compared with
plantings on April 26 in 1980 and 1982. The slightly lower amaranth yields in
zero tillage seedbeds were caused by much slower emergence in the stubbles. The
slow emergence probably resulted from colder soil under the stubble, but drier
soil also contributed. A residual nitrogen benefit after fallow and alfalfa was
evident in both greener and taller plants than after oat. Both stubble seedbeds
gave better weed control than conventional tillage because weed seeds were not
moved into favorable locations for germination. Although not a factor in these
small plots, the stubbles provided good protection against wind damage to
amaranth and soil erosion bywind and water.
Amaranth adjusts to a wide range of plant population densities without greatly
altering its performance (Table 4). Highest yields were obtained from planting
rates of 100,000 to 250,000 seeds per acre which developed into plant
population densities of 73,000 to 85,000 plants per acre or nearly two plants
per square foot. The lowest population lodged least because of its larger,
Table 4. Planting rates and amaranth performance, 4 trial average (l)
Seeds/acre planted (thousands): 100
Plants/acre at harvest (thousands): 73
Seed yield/acre (pounds): 787
Planting to heading (days) (2): 68
Height (inches): 76
Lodging (score) (3): 2
Weed control (percent) (4): 7
Seeds/acre planted (thousands): 250 (4)
Plants/acre at harvest (thousands): 85
Seed yield/acre (pounds): 847
Planting to heading (days) (2): 67
Height (inches): 75
Lodging (score) (3): 4
Weed control (percent) (4): 7
Seeds/acre planted (thousands): 500 (2)
Plants/acre at harvest (thousands): 190
Seed yield/acre (pounds): 658
Planting to heading (days) (2): 67
Height (inches): 68
Lodging (score) (3): 3
Weed control (percent) (4): 7
Seeds/acre planted (thousands): 1000 (5)
Plants/acre at harvest (thousands): 446
Seed yield/acre (pounds): 511
Planting to heading (days) (2): 68
Height (inches): 73
Lodging (score) (3): 3
Weed control (percent) (4): -
Seeds/acre planted (thousands): LSD 5%
Plants/acre at harvest (thousands): 14
Seed yield/acre (pounds): 96
Planting to heading (days) (2): 1
Height (inches): 3
Lodging (score) (3): 1
Weed control (percent) (4): 1
(1) Data for planting rates not included in all trials are
adjusted to be comparable with those in all trials.
23 trials. 31=erect, 9=flat. 42 trials. 51 trial.
Seed yields of amaranth in cultivated rows 30 inches apart and in noncultivated
rows 6 or 12 inches apart planted at 100,000 seeds per acre in 1981 and 1982
did not differ significantly, however weed control was slightly better in the
cultivated rows (Table 5, Figures 3 and 4). In comparisons at a higher planting
rate of 500,000 seeds per acre in 1980, 6-inch rows produced higher yields than
Winter rye and amaranth were planted in alternate rows 12 inches apart (Figure
5) and with four rye rows 6 inches apart between amaranth rows 30 inches apart
(Figure 6) in order to give wind protection to young amaranth, to control
weeds, and to reduce wind and water erosion. Winter rye planted in June
provides a leafy growth competitive with weeds and then dies in late July and
August from heat, leaf rust, and competition from amaranth and weeds. Although
yield and weed control were not improved in these trials, these techniques with
more testing and modification may become useful in commercial production of
amaranth on large, erosive fields.
Harvesting and Storage
Amaranth remains green and growing even after the earliest seeds are mature,
dry, and starting to shatter. Consequently, a freeze to kill the plant followed
by a week of dry weather is needed before combine harvest from the standing
plants is efficient. Both amaranth plants and tall weeds should be dry so that
wet juices don't stick amaranth seeds to the straw and insides of the combine.
Preharvest desiccant sprays do not have EPA approval, and many amaranth
consumers do not approve of agrichemicals. Windrowing is not practical because
drying of large heads and stems in the windrow is slow, and in contrast to
other small grain crops, amaranth stubble is too sparse to hold up the windrow.
Another untested alternative is to cut and bind the plants with a corn binder
and then dry the bundles in shocks before threshing.
Shattering losses in combining the standing crop may be reduced by reel
adjustment and removal of alternate bats. Combines with snout dividers between
individual rows have lower shattering losses than those with small grain
headers when harvesting wide-row amaranth. Seed catching pans used for
sunflower harvesting might be effective in reducing shattering loss.
Small plantings can be harvested by removing the heads with a knife and then
drying the heads in bags before threshing. Or the seed can be harvested several
times from the same plants by shaking the ripe seeds into a bushel basket
without injuring the plants.
The maximum moisture level for safe storage of amaranth seed is not known, but
it is lower than that of the large-seeded grain crops. One estimate is 11
percent. Average test weight per bushel of mature amaranth seed harvested at
Rosemount was 63 pounds. Consequently, less bin volume is needed to store a
given weight of amaranth than that needed for other grain crops.
The only insects that noticeably damaged research plots at Rosemount were
fleabeetles and lygus bugs. Fleabeetles often caused severe shot hole damage in
the leaves of young plants. Damage was not noticeable in older, larger plants.
A similar problem is the early defoliation of mustard crops by fleabeetle. The
control in mustard is chemical seed treatment which protects the seedling in
the first few days after emergence. Such treatments need research in amaranth.
Enormous populations of lygus bugs were usually present in the heads. These
sucking insects probably reduced yield by feeding on the immature seeds.
Diseases were not an evident problem, but seed treatments to enhance emergence
and decrease damping off should be investigated.
After the seed forms, amaranth attracts goldfinches, sparrows, and other birds.
Birdfeeding on seeds and/or insects in the heads probably caused more loss from
shattering than from feeding.
Amaranth For Food
A major focus of amaranth promotion is its nutritional value. Amaranth scores
higher than major crops such as corn and wheat on nutritionists' scales of
protein quality. Leucine is the limiting essential amino acid in amaranth, but
that is nimportant because corn and other grains have excess leucine. Amaranth
compared with corn and other grain crops that are members of the grass family
is much higher in lysine amino acid and usually higher in protein. Diets
containing protein from both amaranth and corn rank very high in amino acid
balance. However, amaranth should be compared with buckwheat in the United
Buckwheat was an important crop in pioneer times because it provided a
nutritious variation in the high grain and tuber diet required in a developing
country. Buckwheat declined in importance because it yields less food and feed
than other grain crops, and its distinctive flavor is not essential in American
diets. Both amaranth and buckwheat are nongrass grain crops; both crops are
planted in late spring or early summer; both crops and their products are high
priced, specialty foods compared with staple food crops.
The 18 amino acids found in amaranth grown at Rosemount are ranked in
descending order of their percentages of oven-dry amaranth seed in Table 6.
Buckwheat seed is covered by a hull which is removed before it is used for
food. Consequently, amaranth seed (column 2) should be compared with buckwheat
seed (column 4) or buckwheat groat (column 5) depending on the intent of the
comparison. Using either comparison, the amino acid profiles of amaranth and
buckwheat are reasonably similar, and both crops are satisfactory sources of
the essential amino acids for human nutrition. The columns headed protein
(columns 3 and 6) in Table 6 show the amino acid composition of the true
protein remaining after removal of the other constituents of the seeds.
Comparison of the two columns show that the proteins of amaranth and buckwheat
are nutritionally similar.
Table. 6. Average amino acid concentrations in amaranth and buckwheat seeds
produced at Rosemount
Amaranth (l) Buckwheat (2)
Amino acid seed protein seed groat protein
------------- (percent) ------------------
Glutamic acid 2.04 17.49 1.99 2.72 18.02
Arginine 1.21 10.37 1.47 2.01 13.30
Aspartic acid 1.02 8.73 1.20 1.64 10.86
Glycine 0.80 6.83 0.61 0.83 5.52
Leucine 0.73 6.26 0.75 1.02 6.75
Lysine 0.69 5.88 0.66 0.90 5.99
Serine 0.67 5.79 0.46 0.62 4.12
Valine 0.58 5.01 0.85 1.17 7.71
Phenylalanine 0.54 4.67 0.46 0.63 4.17
Proline 0.52 4.49 0.41 0.55 3.66
Isoleucine 0.48 4.12 0.39 0.53 3.48
Tyrosine 0.47 4.06 0.23 0.32 2.12
Alanine 0.44 3.75 0.45 0.61 4.03
Threonine 0.43 3.73 0.43 0.58 3.87
Histidine 0.38 3.29 0.23 0.32 2.11
Methionine 0.28 2.36 0.15 0.21 1.37
Cystine 0.263 2.233 0.18 0.25 1.66
Tryptophan 0.113 0.943 0.14 0.19 1.29
(1) 1977, 1979 crops averaged.
(2) 1977-78 crops averaged.
(3) Data adjusted from other sources to be comparable.
Protein percentages of foods are calculated by various methods. However, the
methods are calibrated to give protein percentages based on the product of
percent nitrogen times a nitrogen-to-protein conversion factor. Factors of 6.25
and 5.85 have been used for amaranth, but 6.25 is used arbitrarily for most
crops. Calculations based on the analyses reported in Table 6 show that 5.90 is
the correct conversion factor for amaranth without inclusion of ammonia in the
calculations and 5.46 with ammonia included. The comparable figure for
buckwheat is 5.76 without ammonia.
Comparisons of amaranth seed and buckwheat groat (Table 7) show that they are
similar in protein, carbohydrate, and ash concentrations, but amaranth seed is
higher in fat and fiber. Elemental composition data (Table 8) may be used to
calculate nutrient removal by crops and thus serve as a guide for soil
fertility maintenance. At present yield levels, nutrient removal by these crops
Table 7. Average nutritional composition of amaranth and buckwheat seeds
produced at Rosemount and Elk River (l)
Protein2 Carbohydrate Fat Fiber Ash
------------------ (percent) ------------------
Amaranth seed (3) 15.4 65.7 6.3 4.1 2.5
Buckwheat seed 12.3 73.3 2.3 10.9 2.1
Buckwheat groat 16.8 67.8 3.2 0.6 2.2
(1) 12 percent moisture basis.
(2) Nitrogen to protein conversion factor of 6.25.
Table 8. Elemental composition of amaranth and buckwheat seeds
produced at Rosemount, Becker, and Elk River(l)
Element Amaranth (2) Buckwheat
------------- (percent) -------------
Nitrogen 2.8 2.2
Phosphorus 0.6 0.5
Potassium 0.5 0.6
Calcium 0.2 0.1
Magnesium 0.3 0.3
Sulfur --- 0.2
---------- (parts/million) ----------
Iron l00 53
Zinc 52 37
Manganese 36 30
Aluminum 13 25
Sodium 10 70
Boron 9 13
Copper 3 8
Lead <1 <1
Nickel 0.6 2
Chromium 0.4 0.2
Cadmium <O.l <O.l
Molybdenum ----- <2.5
(1) Oven-dry moisture basis.
Amaranth is grown for home consumption and as a commercial cash crop. The seeds
can be popped like popcorn although it is difficult to prevent burning; popped
seeds are still very small as popping expansion is about 4 to 1. The seeds can
be soaked in water and cooked like oatmeal; time of soaking is adjusted to give
the desired texture. Many amaranth products are available in food stores
including seed, popped seed, flour, crackers, granola, cereal, cookies, and
Antinutritive factors occur in amaranth seed but at similar levels to those in
some legumes and sorghum, consequently, they are not expected to present any
Vegetable amaranth leaves are boiled in water and eaten like spinach. The
protein quality of the leaves is high, and the leaves are excellent sources of
vitamins, calcium, and iron. Amaranth, like other leaf vegetables, contains
many anti- nutritional factors including nitrates and oxalates especially when
grown under dry conditions. Cooking removes much of the nitrates and oxalates
if the cooking water is discarded.